Video Nasty 67: The Toolbox Murders

Set around a spate of tool-based killings in an LA apartment block, 1978 slasher The Toolbox Murders is a film too dull to bother banning or even talking about, but they did so here we are.

Tagline: ‘Bit by bit.. by bit he carved a nightmare!’

Following the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dennis Donnelly cashed in with his own DIY horror (see also The Driller Killer and Nail Gun Massacre, except don’t), even nicking Tobe Hooper’s fake ‘true story’ claim. It’s appropriate then that Hooper went on to direct a Toolbox Murders remake in 2004. These movies were anathema to the British censors concerned with ‘imitable behaviour’, since power tools are as readily available in the UK as guns are in the US.

They also more nakedly expose what feminist scholar Carol J. Clover calls “the killer’s phallic purpose”, and The Toolbox Murders‘ unreconstructed obsession with butchering women in the nude seems misogynistic no matter which way you slice it (characters keep inquiring into the sex lives of the victims, as though promiscuity might explain being murdered with a nail gun), leaving you feeling dirty despite the numerous bathing sequences.

Both murderer and director run out of tools in the first five minutes, after which we have to sit through a less than riveting procedural led by less than convincing actors (Wesley Eure and Nicholas Beauvy), culminating nicely with a disturbing performance from Cameron Mitchell. The passiveness of the final girl (Pamelyn Ferdin) adds to the overall sadism, as does the bizarre easy listening soundtrack that accompanies the hard watching scenes.

The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies (or as I call it, the Bible) gives this film a 2 splatter rating out of 5, denoting: “Maybe just enough blood to keep the gore-monger entertained.” But the long, bloodless middle section? Rusty.

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